CPS agrees to ensure boys, girls have equal access to sports programs

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Tanita Allen, of Whitney Young High School, drives to the basket against Joliet Catholic at the Chicago Public High School Girls Basketball Shootout at Chicago State University on Jan. 25, 2014, in Chicago.| Gary Middendorf/For Sun-Times Media

Chicago Public Schools now must ensure that boys and girls have access to the same sports programs, according to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Education published Thursday that settles a sex discrimination complaint filed under the federal Title IX law.

CPS also will have to submit information to the department’s Office of Civil Rights about school sports, showing that opportunities offered to girls and boys are proportionate to their enrollments; or that it’s responding to girls’ sports interests; or prove that girls are satisfied with current sports offerings, according to the agreement signed on July 1.

To do so, CPS has created a database of all sports and competitive levels offered at every CPS high school, along with how many boys and girls are participating at each level. The district also promised to train athletic directors on Title IX requirements and will inform principals and their athletic directors annually about their compliance. Sports teams vary widely by school, but by the 2013-14 school year, high schools offered up to 14 high school sports for boys and 13 for girls.

“Chicago Public Schools recognizes the importance that sports programs play in the lives of all student athletes and does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” district spokesman Bill McCaffrey said in an email.

Two years ago, CPS hired a Title IX sports compliance coordinator to help the schools and continues to survey students ahout their interests, he said.

McCaffrey said schools committed to pay for uniforms and transportation while the Central Office will fund the coaches and officials.

The complaint was filed in 2010 by the National Women’s Law Center, which noticed that Chicago “had one of the largest gaps between the percentage of girls enrolled in school and the percentage of girls who are athletes,” said Fatima Goss Graves, the organization’s vice president for education. “Any time you have double digit gaps . . . it raised a real flag for us.”

Using information from the 2006 Civil Rights Data Collection — the most recently available at the time — Graves’ group pointed out that some high schools reported zero female athletes and asked for further investigation.

“If the high schools in the district provided girls with opportunities substantially proportionate to enrollment, an additional 7,294 girls would be able to play sports,” the group complained, noting that girls’ sports teams decreased from 830 in 2004 to 132 in 2006.

Neither the complaint nor the settlement included charter schools.

The agreements comes at a time when CPS is scrambling for dollars. The district just enacted $200 million in cuts and planned 1,050 staff layoffs — among the cuts were $3.2 million in central funding from elementary sports teams and stipends from 5,300 grade school coaches. Elementary schools will have to find their own ways to pay for sports if they want them.

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